“I really get to keep it?” This was a frequently overheard question on October 8 at the Books for Readers event in Fargo, North Dakota, as dozens of wonderstruck children browsed through the brand new library of donated books. This was the second year we partnered with a community in need to bring them books by SCBWI members, but this particular event was more than just a celebration of kids’ literature. Our team was honored to work with the Indian Education Program of Fargo and West Fargo public schools and to attend the Indigenous People’s Day celebration. Books For Readers became part of the celebration day after we decided there was no better way to have a talk with kids and their families than at a vibrant community-supported event.
You can get a glimpse into the event through a short video below:
The SCBWI team comprised of members from national headquarters; the Dakotas region; and SCBWI Board of Advisors member Linda Sue Park, the award-winning author of A Single Shard and A Long Walk to Water. Dakotas RA Betty Raum and the wonderful team of member volunteers were on hand to make sure the kids enjoyed our part of the special day. Our volunteer team consisted of Tory Christie, Selina Bjorlie, Linda Sand, Kristy Olsgaard, and Deirdre Prischmann. Kids and teens were treated to a selection of free books ranging from picture books to middle grade to nonfiction to YA novels—all created and donated by SCBWI members.
The other half of the day consisted of a mini pow wow, which is a Native American spiritual and celebratory meeting. We were invited to participate in the dancing and traditional meal which we gladly took part in. Linda Sue Park spoke to members at an exclusive dinner about the process and joys of writing, and could also be found bonding with the Fargo residents as she gamely helped them prepare a meal of buffalo stew and freshly baked cornbread.
We were fortunate to get good press coverage of Books For Readers with the help of SCBWI Literacy Initiative creative consultant Patricia J. Murphy, who was able to get interviews featuring Lin Oliver, Linda Sue Park, and Indian Education Program coordinator Melody Staebner on National Public Radio (NPR) and WDAY-TV. She also arranged a feature in the Fargo Forum, the largest newspaper in the city, as well as other blogs, radio shows, and industry publications.
A terrific day filled with fun, food, and books was had by all the kids. For the adults in attendance, it was also an emotional experience. “The two communities felt so in tune,” said SCBWI marketing director Tammy Brown. “We were together for what was a celebration of that community in a way that was both spiritual and fun, and we were so privileged to be a part of that.” The powwow made an impact, and so too did the sight of kids each connecting with a special story, overjoyed that they would be allowed to take their new book home. SCBWI will get to spread that good feeling to the south when Books For Readers next teams up with the Literary Alliance in Oviedo, Florida.
A big thank you goes out to all our members who generously donated their books to Books For Readers.